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Google’s Answer to Facebook Likes: +1

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Updated. For the longest time, Google (s goog) has resisted the idea of human interference in its flagship offering: search (and advertising.) Lately, thanks to the fast growing volume of information and rising importance of social validation, the search giant is changing its tune and is reluctantly embracing humans.

The company today is launching a new +1 feature that allows folks who are users of Google services such as Gmail, Google Talk, Google Reader and Google Profiles to rank the search results. Think of it as Google’s retweet gesture, and a way of social validation. If you think a search result is a good one, you can click on +1 and that helps rank a search result higher. Update: A company spokesperson says the company hopes to test adding these +1s to search results to help a result rank higher. You can also undo your +1 click.

So when you use the search while logged into Google, you will be able to see who added +1 to a specific search result from your social graph – in this case, your contacts in various Google services such as Gmail, Google Contacts and folks you are following on Google Reader and Buzz. Google says it will add Twitter login support in the near future.

Google is also using the +1 social validation system for its ads as well. Google is looking to offer the +1 services to publishers, which will be able to embed the +1 button on their pages much like the Tweet This and Digg This buttons. As the company explains on the Google Blog:

We expect that these personalized annotations will help sites stand out by showing users which search results are personally relevant to them. As a result, +1’s could increase both the quality and quantity of traffic to the sites people care about.

But the +1 button isn’t just for search results. We’re working on a +1 button that you can put on your pages too, making it easy for people to recommend your content on Google search without leaving your site. If you want to be notified when the +1 button is available for your website, you can sign up for email updates at our +1 webmaster site.

I’m glad Google is taking this small but important step and using “social validations” to improve its core offering. I’m just surprised that the company took so long to come to this realization. Social validation is a behavior that has gone mainstream – thanks to the likes of Digg, StumbleUpon,, Twitter and most importantly, Facebook. Google’s implementation isn’t obtrusive and is a good idea. I hope it becomes popular, and in the process, hopefully improves search on the web.

19 Responses to “Google’s Answer to Facebook Likes: +1”

  1. Like most I think this is a good thing (no matter what Google decides to term it as). But was there no information released on what precautions they are taking to make sure spammers don’t take advantage of this new feature?

    What’s to stop someone from hacking into Gmail accounts and +1’ing sites for keywords that they are trying to rank clients for?

  2. The single most vapid thing on the internet is when using an online forum, someone replies to a post with a “+1” and adds absolute no new content/info/opinion.

    While I’m not sure the “like” button is a ton better, at least my brain doesn’t associate it with the millions of +1 posts that litter the internet daily. So, for whatever little it’s worth, I don’t understand how this passed muster at Google. There cannot be any thinking person on earth that associates the existing usage of +1 with anything positive.

  3. Following from Ronald, I don’t think many users are going to alter their workflow to include this new action.

    Generally, once I’ve found the information I’m searching for, I’m done with the search page. Finding the information means I can continue what I was doing, and my headspace is no longer concerned with search terms and results.

    Having the +1 as an overlay button would be better, since I could just push it and go. But it would be important to distinguish between “like this page” and “like this page in terms of the search I performed”, publishing that concept to my social graph would be difficult. If a post I write requires me to search for “Nazi memorabilia”, and think a page is a good fit to that search, I don’t necessarily want my social graph seeing “hey, tom thinks that page is great, you should check it out…”

    In some ways it would actually be better to have a -1 button, since if the page did not show me what I wanted I would be going back to the search page anyway, and then I’d press the button.

  4. So the workflow is as follows:
    Search term(s)
    Results page
    Pick link
    Check page
    Go back to results page
    Find link
    +1 link

    Simple question(s).
    Since I’m going to do a lot of work for Google, what’s in it for me? Also if “friends” use slightly different search term(s) is it aggregated or is it an exact match only?
    Do I have to go in and delete +1’s after a year for products I don’t find relevant anymore?

  5. Just one small problem with all of this…almost no one but serious Gmail users has significant portions of their social graph inside of Google’s systems, the way they do on Facebook. That renders much of this a moot point. Agreed that it is baffling that it took them this long to roll this out.